Eddie Lee: “Emergent regularities and scaling in armed conflict data”

May 26, 2021 | 21:3021:55

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Eddie Lee will give a talk at the SIAM Conference on Applications of Dynamical Systems (DS21), which takes place as a virtual event from May 23 to 27, 2021.


Eddie’s lecture titled “Emergent regularities and scaling in armed conflict data” is part of the session “Modeling Collective Behavior in Human Social Systems” on May 26, 2-4 pm (Eastern Time, UTC-4).




Large-scale armed conflict is a characteristic feature of modern societies. The statistics of conflict show remarkable regularities like power law distributions of fatalities and duration, but lack a unifying framework.


We explore a large, detailed data set of 105 armed conflict reports spanning 20 years across nearly 104 kilometers. By systematically clustering spatiotemporally proximate events into conflict avalanches, we show that the number of conflict reports, fatalities, duration, and geographic extent satisfy consistent power law scaling relations across a wide range of scales used for clustering.


The temporal evolution of conflicts measured by these scaling variables display emergent symmetry, collapsing onto a universal dynamical profile over a range of scales. The measured exponents and dynamical profiles describe a system distinct from prevailing explanations of conflict growth such as forest fire models.


Our findings suggest that armed conflicts are dominated by a low-dimensional process that scales with physical dimensions in a surprisingly unified and predictable way. To account for such regularities, we propose a randomly branching armed conflict model to relate social and physical properties of armed conflict to one another. The model incorporates a fractal lattice on which conflict spreads, uniform dynamics driving conflict growth, and regional virulence that modulates local conflict intensity.



May 26, 2021


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